Defense minister: NATO eastern flank needs 'significant strengthening'

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform).
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform). Source: ERR

Russia's unprovoked, full-scale armed invasion of Ukraine has significantly changed the threat level on NATO's eastern flank, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says. Rapid decisions in strengthening defense in the region are required, as a result, he added.

Speaking after Wednesday's NATO member states' defense ministers meeting in Brussels, Laanet said: "Estonia's message at the NATO meeting was to considerably strengthen the Alliance's eastern flank, which also means increasing the number and capabilities of the troops positioned in Estonia."

"In addition, all [participants] emphasized the need to raise defense spending to at least 2 percent of GDP. A stronger joint contribution will allow developing defense capabilities faster. Here I can proudly say that Estonia is one of the most exemplary allies," Laanet added, according to a ministry press release.

The alliance remained firm in its resolve and alert in its preparedness, the defense minister continued.

He said: "NATO has raised the readiness level of thousands of troops across the alliance. This is a firm signal to Russia that any attack or provocation against one NATO member state will be swiftly and decisively met with a counter reaction from the entire alliance."

NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, March 16 2022. Source: Ministry of Defense

The NATO ministers also reiterated their support for Ukraine and emphasized the need to provide all necessary military and non-military aid to that country.

To date, Estonia's contribution has been €220 million, of which the majority is military aid; however, in addition Estonia has also sent Ukraine medical and humanitarian aid.

"We have to do all we can and make the maximum contribution as long as it is needed, to make sure Ukraine wins," Laanet went on.

NATO's long-term deterrence and defensive posture requires accelerated adjustment in line with the changed threat situation, with member states' agreement likely to be ready at the NATO Madrid summit in June at the latest, the defense ministry says.

Defense ministers from Ukraine itself, as well as non-NATO members Finland and Sweden, and representatives of the EU, were also consulted at Wednesday's meeting.

Laanet also met on a bilateral basis with his British counterpart Ben Wallace, and with Artis Pabriks and Morten Bødskov, the defense ministers of Latvia and Denmark respectively, while in Brussels.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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